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Thursday, May 15, 2014

WHO Says MERS Not Yet A Global Health Emergency

A newly-erected sign warns travelers about the danger of the MERS virus, at Denver International Airport, May 14, 2014 . MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death. The airport says the signs were posted Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at all of its screening areas at the direction of the Centers for Disease Control. (Denver International Airport via AP)

A newly-erected sign warns travelers about the danger of the MERS virus, at Denver International Airport, May 14, 2014. (Denver International Airport via AP)

The World Health Organization says that MERS, the potentially fatal respiratory illness that originated in the Middle East, does not constitute a global health emergency — yet. But that does not mean that it’s not taking the disease seriously.

A map of countries with confirmed cases of MERS. (Centers for Disease Control)

Map via Centers for Disease Control

So far, MERS has been found in 18 countries, including two cases in the United States, and has killed 171 of the 571 people it has infected.

In the U.S., health care workers are being told to ask patients with respiratory symptoms and fever where they’ve traveled, and in some cases those patients are being isolated from others.

The outbreak of a previously unknown disease raises questions for travelers and health care workers and leaves many wondering whether they’re at risk of unintentional exposure.

For answers, Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer turns to Dr. David Swerdlow, head of response activities for MERS at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Guest

  • David Swerdlow, MD, head of response activities for MERS at the Centers for Disease Control.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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